Tuesday, November 14, 2017

9 Things To Consider Before Hiring A Business Development Executive Or Taking A Job As One

Many agencies think that the way to obtain more new business is to hire a dedicated new business prospector.  My observation is that many of those agencies have not really thought through the implications of that hire.  It may be a successful strategy, but consider these factors before you hire.

If you are a new business person, you should turn these considerations into questions before you take a job.

All this is just food for thought.

1.    Develop realistic expectations before you start interviewing
It takes a long time to develop the relationship which will bring in an account, often years.  Hiring a new business executive can be expensive, not only in terms of salary, but they also need sales materials, travel expenses as well as an entertainment budget.  Can the agency really afford this investment?  And is it committed enough to sustain the program for two to three years at a minimum?

2.    Have you really thought out your sales proposition
Surprisingly, most companies have not thought out what makes them different and why they should be hired.  It isn’t necessarily about past success of the principals. Nor is it solely about the work.  Many new business consultants tell me that too many agencies sound alike and lack unique positioning.

3.    Do you have the materials you need
Not only does the company need a unique positioning (which can take months to develop), they need success stories, written case histories and a great presentation.  It may take months to develop these selling tools before a newly hired executive can become 100% effective. I have seen many company’s management lose patience during the time it take to develop these materials.

4.    Does the agency have a realistic current prospect list
Before someone is hired there should be an A list of immediate (and realistic) prospects, a B list of long term prospects and a C list of “likes” and “wanna haves”.  The agency needs to know where it is going before hiring someone to take them there.  Hiring a new business person with a large contact list may not be the right answer; their contacts may not be A or B list people.  A biz dev person needs a place to start which matches the agency's needs and abilities.

5.    Have you thought out who you really need
There are all kinds of business development executives.  There are cold callers.  There are people who are best able to do RFP’s and RFI’s. There are people who are adept at organizing and creating presentations. There are strategists.  There are people who are great at developing relationships.  I have seen many people hired who have no particular skills but "look the part"; they can be sent to meetings (e.g. The Consumer Electronics Show, the ANA, etc.) and can deal with the consultants. There are CMO types who can position/reposition the agency.  Rarely is there one executive who can do it all, however, the answer to this question will help determine whether a new biz person could come from within or outside the agency business

6.    Where does the new business person fit within the organization
Is he or she a part of management or are they merely a hired gun?  Answering this question will provide guidance in hiring.

7.    Can the business accommodate an influx of new business at this time
This is an important and often overlooked question.  If the business has just lost or gained a large account, does it have the ability to bring in a new piece
of business?  This also has to do with morale as well as staffing and scale. No new business executive can do it alone.  They need support and staffing.

8.    How do you want to compensate a new business person
Many companies pay low and commission high.  Many companies wrongly think that this incentivizes executives.  However, low pay generally attracts more junior people.  I have written about paying commissions several times before. Title is also a part of compensation.  The better the title, the better they will be able to perform; this relates to point six, above.

9.    How do you handle a prospect who wants the new business person to run their account
If the prospect account is big enough, it may be beneficial to hire a freelance to help bring it in.  Otherwise, an agency runs the risk of the prospect wanting the new business person to run his/her account.

These are the kinds of questions I ask when taking an assignment for my recruitment firm.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Be Prepared To Lose Your Job

Unless you plan for your future, the scenario I am writing can happen to you.

Don’t kid yourself.  It can happen to anyone at any time. If you are in advertising or marketing, it will happen and you must be prepared.  The scenario goes like this.  You have a great job and you are doing well.  Then, suddenly, your client cuts the budge or pulls the account or your agency gets sold or merged and you find yourself out of work. You always thought you were well liked and safe, but few employees are really safe.  Consequently, you start networking, you see headhunters and you respond to many on-line listings.  But nothing happens.

Over the years, I have seen this happen to many excellent and well-respected executives.  I have often said that getting – or not getting – a job can be the luck of the draw.  And some people are just not lucky. The only thing I can say is that it isn’t you or anything you have done.  It is just the way it is.

And after a short while being unemployed, you go through your savings or, worse, you start going into debt.  Unemployment insurance may be a help, but it hardly covers your monthly nut.

This is a familiar scenario for every advertising executive.  These days there is no loyalty towards employees and even the most valued and successful executives may find themselves out of work.
Once you are out of work it can go something like this: you start out with a want list – the kind of job you have always dreamed of having and the companies where you always wanted to work. You apply to them on-line or network to them.  But after a while, when it does not happen, you are forced to lower your sights. You must look at companies – even businesses and industries – you never thought much about.  The longer you are out of work, the harder it becomes to look for a job. And herein lies the problem.  It is a vicious circle, and a conundrum.

If you are desperately in need of a job, it is tempting to take the first thing that comes along, even if it is a secondary or tertiary company.  Many of these companies are struggling, although they rarely reveal the truth to you while you are interviewing.  Some of them suffer from inherent problems like poor management; indecisive managers or terrible politics. (Some of these problems also exist at “A list” companies, but their size hides a lot of ills.)  And while learning from a negative situation may prove to be beneficial, it can put you in a long, deep hole that is difficult to get out of.

At first glance at your résumé, now that you have gone to a secondary company, a major company or agency probably doesn’t recognize why you went where you went or what you may have gained from working there.  The truth is, for instance, no matter how good your previous background, a major agency or company, say, JWT, wants to hire from DDB or Publicis, or Deutsch, not some smaller agency in New Jersey (my apologies to the Garden State) or an agency they never heard of or accounts they do not know.

The only way to avoid this situation is to have six months to a year in the bank. That is easily said, and I recognize how hard this is to do.  Savings should be viewed as an expense – where you pay yourself as your own creditor first. That means paying yourself before paying other bills.  It is essential.  And, frankly, having what my accountant calls, “fuck you money”, will make you a better, more effective executive because you will not be afraid to make tough decisions, including leaving the job of your own volition because aspects of it were misrepresented or omitted while you were interviewing.

No matter how desperate  you are. if a job doesn’t feel right, do not take it because it probably is not right.

I had a wonderful partner, Ned Viseltear, who used to say something about creative work, but which is equally applicable to careers: “If you don’t do bad work, bad work cannot be done.” This analogy applies to taking the wrong job as well.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Adventures In Advertising: Getting Good Work Approved Or The Best Business Pun I Ever Heard

Every ad agency faces the same client problem:  getting good work approved by the various client layers without the work being watered down by each successive layer of approval.  By the time it gets to the most senior person, the work often does not even slightly resemble what was originally created. 

The best clients sometimes ask the agency to bring the original and subsequent “boards” to the final presentation. (Boards here are intended to be generic – could be TV, radio, magazines, out-of-home, even web design and UX.)  These clients are rare.  During my many years as an account person, I only had one client do this.  The final board was always presented first, the first board was presented last with an explanation of the changes that were made by his brand and advertising people.  The result is that he often vented his wrath at the changes.  As a result, changes were kept to a minimum by the fear of his anger.  There had to be a good reason for the changes.

These clients are few and far between.  I believe that this why there is so much bad work; by the time the work gets to the final approval level it has often become the “Emperor’s New Clothes”.  I always think of the old adage that a camel is a horse designed by a committee.

That is a long explanation to get to a short and funny story.

Two people, cousins and partners, owned a company equally; they were the children of the original founders of the company. The company was Faygo Beverages, a Detroit based soft drink company (subsequently sold, many years after this story).  Mort and Phil Feigenson were legendary tyrants. They sat together in the same office.  They approved everything that happened in their company.  But they especially loved the advertising.  One of them had really great taste, one not so good.  The agency always presented directly to them along with their ad manager, who didn’t have much to say because the owners always had the last and, mostly, only word. The company was known for having good, sometimes great advertising.  But occasionally they erred.

I was newly on the account and this was my first presentation to them.  I was presenting fairly mundane but nice coupon ads.  One of the owners asked if the headline on one ad could be put with the copy of the other.  Without thinking much, I responded simply, “No”.  I don’t think anyone ever told them no before.  The room became deathly silent.  They stared at me and I stared back. You could cut the silence in the room.  The quiet lasted, probably, twenty seconds.  Then, the copy group head, who was sitting behind me, said, and this is an exact quote -  “A Paul has come over the room.”

It broke the silence and was was the greatest business pun I ever heard. 

Everyone, including the cousins laughed.  They approved the ads as presented and insisted that no presentation ever be made again without me.  They loved the fact that I stood up to them.  For the next several years, they really listened to me.  We were able to sell them really good work.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Adventures In Advertising: Revenge On A Bad Client

When all of us deal with a terrible client, we wish we could somehow get even.  This is about how it actually happened.

Some time ago I wrote about the worst client, ever. This is another story about that same client.

The ad manager, we will call him Ralph, was a screamer, abusive, difficult and we caught him lying all the time. He was the director of advertising of one of the major watch companies.  At some point while we had the account, he cut the advertising budget so he could fund sponsoring the clocks which then appeared all over Grand Central Station.  In those days those clocks were not digital, were not connected to or with each other and often showed the wrong time.  They were of questionable value. We made it clear that it was a dubious buy and a waste of money; especially since it used up a huge portion of their meager budget.

We always questioned why he might have made the purchase. (Guess why!)

Our agency did a really smart thing.  We sent our own employees out to interview commuters. We were trying to recoup the lost budget and sent our own employees out with a short questionnaire to intercept and interview commuters. They actually asked over 2000 people who commuted every day if they looked at those clocks.  Most did.  But, as I recall, only about 2% could identify who the sponsor of them was.  Worse than that, a fair number of them when asked about the sponsorship questioned why a watch company would sponsor inaccurate time pieces.  We actually did the research again after a year and the results were the same.

We could not dissuade him from wasting his budget.  Over time, I moved on to other accounts and eventually took another job.
Well, about five years after I had left the agency, I was at another agency and handling Elgin Watch.  And guess what?  Their marketing director was smart enough to call me to tell me that they had been approached by the out-of-home company which then controlled the clocks (the franchise had turned over a couple of times) in Grand Central and Penn Stations and was proposing that Elgin sponsor them.  We arranged a presentation at the agency’s offices.  The Elgin marketing director was a good guy and had become a friend.  Prior to the presentation I told him about my previous experience.  He told me that the genesis for this meeting came from his own ad director who had been approached by the company and he agreed that it was of dubious value.  Never-the-less, he was a good boss and agreed to allow the presentation.

So the meeting took place.  I was there along with the media director and others from the agency account group.  The client marketing director was there as was the advertising director.  The seller came in with a couple of people.  Lo and behold who was there?  My old friend Ralph.  He was introduced as a consultant who had extensive experience (and success) sponsoring the clocks in another job.  When he saw me his face fell and his demeanor became very dour.  

The sponsoring company made a perfectly nice presentation.  They talked about the traffic and number of people who went through the station on a daily basis.  They had some kind of crazy calculation about the CPM. Then they turned the meeting over to Ralph to tell us how effective this sponsorship would be.  He lied consistently.  He had a few graphs and charts which showed how these clocks affected sales; they were totally a figment of his imagination. 

I was lucky enough to have saved my previous agency’s research and was able to pull it out.  It gave me great pleasure to present it.  I also asked Ralph a lot of questions about the charts and graphs he showed.  He hemmed and hawed and blustered through the answers.  Half way through my presentation, Ralph screamed at me (what else was new?) called me a liar and stormed out.  (Clearly he had been offered a piece of the action if Elgin agreed to the sponsorship.  I always suspected that he had previously gotten some kind of fee.)

In fairness, I thought that the clock sponsorship might be a good idea for the right company, but Elgin wasn’t it for reasons too long and complicated here.  And the new owners of the franchise were somehow duped by Ralph and meant no harm.

When the meeting was over, Ralph was the first one out of the room.  The sponsoring company was mortified and apologized to the agency and client.  I just smiled.  Ralph had gotten his just reward.  I never hear about him again.

Creative Commons License